Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Dame Cressida Dick, yesterday confirmed that the active investigation into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence in Eltham in 1993, has reached the stage where all identified lines of enquiry have been completed, and the investigation will now move to an inactive phase.
The investigation has not been formally closed. Dame Cressida Dick has said that the Metropolitan Police will continue to deal with any new information that comes to light. The case will also be periodically reviewed for any further investigative opportunities which may arise, for example with advancements in technology.
Responding to the announcement by the Metropolitan Police, Neville Lawrence has issued the following statement through his solicitors, Hodge Jones & Allen:
“I am disappointed to hear this news but not surprised. I had hoped that the conviction of two of the killers in 2012 would lead to new evidence coming to light and a prosecution of the other suspects. This has unfortunately not happened and over the last few years I have had to come to terms with the reality that some of the killers of Stephen may never be brought to justice for what they did.
“Stephen died 27 years ago in a senseless murder by racists. The tragedy of this for us was compounded by the initial police response and investigation which were tainted by racism and incompetence. The police failures meant that we as a family had to fight a system, as well as deal with the grief of losing our son.
“When I look back over those 27 years I am proud of what my family and I have achieved with the help and support of many others. The first years were especially tiring going through a failed police investigation, a private prosecution, an inquest and a public inquiry all in the public glare. The public support helped us get through this.
“Because of the hurdles we faced I became more determined to achieve justice for Stephen and vowed not to rest until then. Little did we know it would take so long. In 2012, with the conviction of two of the suspects we finally achieved some justice for Stephen.
“That trial nearly did not happen. In May 2004, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided that there would be no prosecutions for the murder of Stephen. I was not prepared to accept the police and CPS reassurances that no stone had been left unturned in the review of the evidence. I felt that there must be evidence to support a conviction and I brought a legal challenge against the CPS to prevent the investigation being dropped.
“I am pleased that the pressure this case applied, together with other factors, helped bring about a change in the position and the police decided to reopen the investigation into Stephen’s murder and conduct a forensic review. It was this later investigation, led by DCI Clive Driscoll, that eventually led to the conviction of Gary Dobson and David Norris.
“I made a statement after these convictions to say that I felt that we had achieved ‘some justice’ for Stephen. At the end of my statement I said:
“Something has happened over the last seven weeks – I have watched justice being done. As for me, I’m not sure where I will go from here. I will let this good news sink in for some time.
However, I’m also conscious of the fact that there were five or six attackers that night. I do not think I’ll be able to rest until they are all brought to justice.”
“With the announcement that the investigation has become inactive, I am conscious that the case can never be closed for me. I will always live with the hope that someone might come forward with evidence which will allow us to achieve full justice for Stephen – by bringing about the prosecution of the others responsible for his murder.
“I do not regret our fight for justice, although the burden has at times felt too heavy for a family to bear. During this time I have found solace in my faith, and being baptised three years ago has helped me come to terms with what has happened. I am immensely proud of everything that has been achieved along the way. Without the campaign we wouldn’t have been where we are today – and I have had the privilege of meeting many people from all walks of life, great people like Nelson Mandela and ordinary families struck by tragedy, and people in the wider community who gave their time and efforts, all working hard to combat racism and hatred.
“I particularly note the support I have received over the years from families who have suffered what I have, especially the family of Richard Adams, who provided me with support in my darkest hours. This experience has compelled me to try and provide this support to others struck by the tragedy of losing a child.”
Jocelyn Cockburn, Partner at Hodge Jones & Allen, Mr Neville’s solicitors, said:
“I have worked with Neville Lawrence for sixteen years, since he instructed HJA and Heather Williams QC of Doughty Street Chambers to represent him in a judicial review of the Crown Prosecution Service in 2004. At that time the CPS decided that there was insufficient evidence to bring any prosecutions for the murder of Stephen. Neville was not prepared to accept this and said he wanted “no stone left unturned” in his quest to achieve justice for Stephen*. His efforts helped lead to the reopening of the police investigation in 2006 and ultimately the conviction in 2012 of two of the murderers. This provided him with “some justice”.
“Today I am moved by the sadness he expressed in hearing the news that the investigation into the other suspects has become inactive**. However, Neville can feel immensely proud of what his efforts have achieved over the past 27 years – campaigning tirelessly for justice, even in the face of apparent defeat, and securing renewed attention to the investigation despite being told there was no evidence for convictions. His desire to never give up on bringing Stephen’s killers to justice has been a huge source of inspiration for other families who have had to suffer in similar ways.
“Stephen’s murder was motivated by racism and the police investigation that followed was infected by racism. Inevitably the family campaign for justice has led to a wider public understanding of the poison of racism in society and a call for there to be changes in the way that black communities are policed. Neville’s disappointment that there has been so little progress made since Stephen’s death is clear. We at HJA and Neville’s legal team continue to support Neville in his work.”
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